Travel money cards are useful things. Traditionally, it’s been tricky to spend money when you’re abroad without racking up big charges - both your home bank and foreign ones can end up charging you if you use an Australian debit or credit card when you’re out of the country. But with a travel card, you can pay - with a card - in the foreign currency. Which can be cheaper.
There are many such cards on the market, and one popular option is from travel money specialist Travelex. The Travelex Money Card lets you hold cash in up to 10 different currencies, and it’s a Mastercard, so you can use it widely.
Before you get started, a word.
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Now, back to what you came here to read.
This article will take a look at exactly what the card offers you, including:
- Exchange rates: what rates you get when using the Travelex card, and how good a deal that really is
- Fees & charges: what do you have to pay for with the card
- Currencies available: a full list
- Limits: how much money you’re able to put on and spend with it
- App: information about Travelex’s app
- So, is it good?: an evaluation of the Travelex Money Card
- How to get & use a Travelex Money Card
First of all, it’s worth considering the reason that travel money cards are useful in the first place. It can be summed up in 2 words: exchange rates.
What are your Australian dollars actually worth, in terms of other currencies, like US dollars or euros? It’s a simple question, but the answer is constantly changing, as the international currency markets go up and down. To make matters worse, currency exchangers - whether they’re banks or specialists like Travelex - set their own exchange rates: they can literally decide how many US dollars or euros to give you in exchange for your Australian dollars. So you’ll probably get a different amount depending on who you use.
It’s a strange situation, but it’s the way it’s always been, even though these days it’s possible to access the mid-market rate, which is the markup-free exchange rate that banks tend to use when they trade between themselves - TransferWise, for instance, offers the mid-market rate on all its international transfers.
But if you don’t have the mid-market rate, it’s an uphill struggle to get a good deal on currency exchange.
Travel money cards let you hold money in a foreign currency. Compare it to using your Australian debit card abroad: if you do that, your money will have to be converted every single time you pay by card or withdraw cash from an ATM. And the exchange rate will be different each time, depending on when you make the transaction.
What’s more, your bank (and possibly the foreign ATM too) may charge you extra fees on top of the exchange rate. That’s a lot of uncertainty, and potentially a lot of extra costs.
But with a travel card, you can hold money directly in the foreign currency, so you don’t have to convert the money every single time. You may also face fewer extra charges. It’s more efficient, and you don’t have to worry about the exchange rate during your trip.
And, of course, it means you don’t have to travel with a pocketful of cash.
Of course, though, you will still have to convert your money at some point. What exchange rate will you get from Travelex when you load up your card? You can preview it on Travelex’s website. Likewise, for top-ups, the exchange rate used is set by Travelex.
Travelex also says on its website that you can “lock in” an exchange rate when you put money on your card. Take care before getting too excited about this - that exchange rate only “locks in” for the first time you put money on the card. If you want to top it up, you’ll likely find the rate will have been “unlocked” by then and you’re back to square one.¹,²
Whenever you’re dealing with exchange rates, the best advice is to compare the rate you’re offered to the mid-market rate. You can check the mid-market rate easily via an online currency converter like Google, XE or TransferWise. Don’t forget you can look elsewhere if you’re not happy with the deal.
Everything comes at a price, of course. Watch out for the following fees with a Travelex money card.²
|Travelex Money Card fee||Description and amount|
|Top-up fee via an agent location||As above|
|Top-up/reload fee via BPAY|
|Card payment surcharge³||If you buy or top up with a credit or debit card, you might have to pay a surcharge of between 0.72% and 1%|
|Additional card fee||If you need to get an extra card. AUD 5|
|ATM withdrawal fee|
|Inactivity fee||If you haven’t used the card in the last year. AUD 4 per month|
|Closure/withdrawal fee||If you close the card or take money off it. AUD 10 (fee from Mastercard Prepaid rather than Travelex)|
|Foreign exchange rate||If you move money on the card between different currencies. Rate determined by Travelex|
|“Currency conversion fee”||If you spend more money than you have in a certain currency. Travelex will use any money you hold in other currencies, exchanged at the Mastercard exchange rate plus a 5.95% markup|
The “currency conversion fee” can be a little confusing, so here’s an example. Say you’re in France, you have EUR 0 and AUD 100 on your card, and you try and withdraw EUR 50. Your card will give you the money, but it’ll be taken out of your AUD balance - converted at an exchange rate marked up by 5.95%.
So it really pays to make sure that all your money is in the right currency.
There are 10 currencies available on the Travelex Money Card:²
- Australian dollars
- New Zealand dollars
- US dollars
- Canadian dollars
- Hong Kong dollars
- Singaporean dollars
- Japanese yen
- Thai baht
- British pounds
You can load or top up your card with a minimum of AUD 100 each time - or the equivalent in whichever currency. The maximum is AUD 100,000 (or equivalent). Via bank transfer or BPAY, the daily top-up limit is AUD 25,000.
The maximum you can have on the card in total - across all currencies - is AUD 100,000.
From an ATM, you can withdraw up to AUD 3,000 daily - unless the ATM has its own limits.
There are a few other constraints too that you should check with Travelex, if they’re likely to affect you.²
Like many companies offering cards, Travelex has an app, too. The Travelex Money app is designed to be used in tandem with their Money Card.
It offers a handy way to check your balance and recent transactions - and top your card up as well.
There are version in both the App Store and Google Play.²
The Travelex Money Card is an okay choice if you’re after a foreign currency card. The 10 currencies it offers will be useful for many travelers, especially those moving around the English-speaking world. Realistically speaking, users might well only need it for 1 or 2 foreign currencies. But its flexibility is still pretty useful - especially, perhaps , if you travel often for work.
As shown by the table above, using the card in Australian dollars could get expensive. So aim only to use it abroad.
The high maximum limits should cater for most users - in fact, the opposite issue might prove more of a problem. As AUD 100 is the minimum top-up amount, try to put the full required amount on the card in the first place so you don’t find yourself in a last-minute jam.
As the fees table shows, the card can get expensive if you get your currencies in a tangle and the card has to convert money on your behalf. To be fair, Travelex isn’t unusual here: some other travel money cards do the same thing. In reality, it’s not going to prove that much of a problem unless you’re embarking on some horribly complex world tour. Do watch out, though.
Overall, the Travelex card offers a good selection of features. As far as the exchange rate goes, the TransferWise debit card, scheduled for Australian release in early 2019, will offer a better rate, because - like TransferWise always does - it’ll be the real mid-market rate. It’ll work hand in hand with the TransferWise borderless account.
Here are some pointers on the more practical side of the Travelex Money Card.
You can buy a Travelex Money Card online, via Travelex’s website, and collect it from a Travelex store. There might well be one at the airport you’re flying from, which could be convenient.
At the time of writing, Travelex don’t yet offer home delivery for the cards, but it’s in the works.³
Once you have your card, you can register it online, which serves as an activation, and you should then be able to start spending with it.
You can use this more or less like any other Mastercard, subject to the limits and potential fees mentioned above. You shouldn’t have a problem with online payments, and it’s contactless enabled too.¹
There are three ways you can top up:
- Via the app
- By phone
Note that high minimum top-up fee, though: you’ll only be able to top up with AUD 100 or more. If all you need is one final cappuccino, it may not be worth it.
Currency exchangers dealing in cash often “buy back” leftover foreign money after a customer’s trip. With a card, the situation is different. However, as noted in the table above, you can close your travel card account - though there is a cost involved. Or you can simply hold on to it for your next trip.
Sometimes it’s best to get the info straight from the horse’s mouth. Visit a Travelex store, drop them an email or call them with the details found on their contact us page.⁴
Sometimes things go wrong. Here’s what to do.
If you lose your card or it gets damaged, get straight in touch with Travelex. They should be able to get you a replacement, or even get you emergency cash pretty quickly.²
There could be various reasons why your card is declined. Run through the following questions:
- Do you have enough money in your account?
- Did you get your PIN right? Too many wrong attempts might lock it.
- Have you reached your maximum withdrawal or spending limit?
- Does the retailer accept Mastercard Prepaid?
Simply top up your account if you’re out of cash on the card. And get in touch with Travelex straight away if you need to unblock your PIN. For any of the other problems mentioned above, you may be out of luck.²
If you forget your PIN, check My Account in the app or online to get a reminder.²
If your card’s blocked, contact Travelex straight away so they can sort it out.
As you’d expect, you can’t use a card that’s expired. You should be able to get your money back, though - or transfer it to a new card if you prefer.²
However you choose to pay for stuff while you’re abroad, there are a few tips you should always bear in mind.
- Check the smallprint. Cards are complicated things. There are always terms and conditions, and the Travelex Money Card is no exception. Read the FAQs to start with.
- Don’t exchange money at airports. They tend to have pretty bad exchange rates there. Can you wait until you’re at your destination? It could be worth it.
- Order online if you can. You can often find a better deal on currency exchange online - take a look around.
- Always use the local currency. Heard of dynamic currency conversion? You might encounter it at ATMs. If you’re asked whether you want to get cash out via the local currency or your home currency, you should always choose the local currency. Otherwise, your money will be converted via dynamic currency conversion - which, in short, means at a very bad exchange rate. Indeed.
Good luck on your trip, whether you go for the Travelex Money Card or another option. Whatever you do, don’t let hidden fees get the better of you.
1.https://www.travelex.com.au/travel-money-card 18 January 2019
2.https://www.travelex.com.au/travel-money-card/faqs 18 January 2019
3.https://buy.travelex.com.au/au/Basket 18 January 2019
4.https://www.travelex.com.au/contact-us 24 January 2019
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